Loo with a view --
Southern California's best restrooms
Traveling along the Southern California coast -- where to go? Well, there are gas stations. Fast food restaurants, and Denny's, open late at night. Plus Starbucks, most everywhere, usually clean enough. But we can do better -- much better, as you'll see from the list below.
Quick links --
Central coast -- Monterey, Big Sur, San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara area -- SB, Ventura, Ojai
Los Angeles area -- Malibu to Seal Beach
Orange county -- Huntington Beach to San Clemente
San Diego county -- Oceanside to Coronado
California, forever short on water, was never exactly restroom-friendly. But we caught a big break when the American Disabilities Act passed in 1990. ADA Compliance guidelines set off a wave of restroom renovations; like more space, for wheelchair accessibility... more information here: http://www.access-board.gov/adaag/checklist/Bathrooms.html. Now, small businesses were often able to avoid or postpone remodeling. But not larger ones. So we have a delightful situation where our grand old hotels are now all totally modernized with beautiful spacious bathrooms... elegant bathrooms, as these places compete with each other to attract their $500-plus-per-night clientele.
That may not be you, and certainly isn't me. But traveling on a budget doesn't mean depriving yourself of a beautiful, relaxing restroom, or a good cup of coffee and scrumptious pastry or sandwich, which you can enjoy in all of these places as well as the $100 dinner.
So here's the list. Southern California actually starts when you come down from Central California through the Gaviota Pass to the state beach west of Santa Barbara. But for this, we're just going to draw a line halfway down the state, just north of Monterey. Santa Cruz up to Crescent City? Northern California. Monterey down to Coronado? That's our Southern California... 600 miles of superb restrooms just waiting for you, as you'll see on the list below.
So here we go. You've come down from San Francisco, past Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Moss Landing... and now you're coming into Monterey, and you have to go. But where?
CENTRAL COAST (back to top)
Located in downtown Monterey, close to the harbor and Fishermans Wharf. Typical Marriott, restrooms near the lobby.
Intercontinental Clement Monterey
Overlooking Monterey Bay, next door to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and in the heart of John Steinbeck's historic Cannery Row. Steinbeck, who came here to drink in the fog with his friend Doc, would have never believed what an upscale boutique tourist trap this old slum has turned into.
The Inn at Spanish Bay
Tucked between Del Monte Forest and the Pacific shore among groves of tall Monterey pines, The Inn at Spanish Bay offers a luxurious enclave of 269 guest rooms and suites for golf enthusiasts and relaxation seekers alike... with a bagpiper out on the course at sunset.
The Lodge at Pebble Beach
Since 1919, The Lodge at Pebble Beach has been a legendary California hotel... at the 18th green of the Pebble Beach Golf Links. Old luxury, a beautiful place to go. Can't recall where the restrooms are, but they will be as nice and sumptuous as the rest of the place... guaranteed.
Carmel public bathrooms
Paradise lost. Carmel-by-the-Sea, in the 1950's was a relaxed hideaway for bohemians -- artists, writers, and Ansel Adams and the f/64 photo group. Today, like a fairy princess with syphilis, it has mutated into a VERY crowded, hyper-shopping-magnet little town. Irritating; imagine QVC in the flesh, on steroids. But... at the end of Ocean Ave, to the right above the beach, you'll still find an old cypress tree at the top of a white-sand dune that you can run down at top speed without fear of falling, defying gravity for a few precious moments before you go to find a restroom in a town that doesn't seem to have any at all. Where to go? Here's help:
And repeated below in case Katie's website goes away -- this is valuable information, as Carmel is NOT a visitor-friendly place, as far as restrooms go:
-- Devendorf Park at Ocean Avenue & Junipero
-- Lincoln Street & 6th Avenue (Across the Street from the Harrison Memorial Library)
-- The Carmel Plaza (Top Level) at Ocean Avenue & Mission Street
-- Dolores Street, between 7th & Ocean Avenue
-- Not-So-Public Restroom: Carmel Bakery And Coffee Co. at Ocean Avenue and Lincoln.
Mission Ranch Hotel
The historic Mission Ranch Resort sits on 22 acres with spectacular views of Point Lobos, Carmel River Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Once one of the first dairies in California, the rich history of this 1800’s ranch was preserved and restored by former Carmel Mayor, Clint Eastwood. Near the Carmel Basilica mission.
Stay in a winery? Sure. Just inland from hyper-crowded Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Bernardus Lodge gets you away from the coastal clouds into a nice sunny place to use a clean restroom, and enjoy a coffee and pastry at their award-winning Marinus restaurant, with its excellent wine list.
Hyatt Carmel Highlands
Just south of Carmel, off the Coast Highway, you'll find a Hyatt... with stunning views of the sea. Perfect place to go after a day enjoying the beautiful Point Lobos State Reserve.
The Big Sur Lodge
THE place to stay in Big Sur; to me, much more relaxed than Post Ranch. In from the sea a bit in the Big Sur valley, will still be sunny when the other, higher-up places are wreathed in fog. And, $500 per night less expensive! Beautiful redwood trees, spacious cabins, and the Big Sur Lodge, with restrooms about halfway down the lobby leading to the restaurant. A jewel in our State Park system.
Very expensive and quite a hike up from the parking lot, the Post Ranch is on top of a ridge overlooking the sea. $700 guestrooms in the trees, and an elegant restaurant with restrooms nearby. But staying there is a gamble. This part of the coast is often cloudy and foggy, which totally obscures the million-dollar hilltop view.
Across Highway 1 from Post Ranch, on the 'land' side of the road, you'll chug up a long driveway to Ventana. Nice place, sunnier than foggier. Restrooms in a little hall near the restaurant, and you can take drinks or coffee out to a lovely patio behind the building.
On a high ridge like the Post Ranch, Nepenthe's restrooms aren't exactly world-class... but you'll have the satisfaction, right off the restaurant area on the top level, of going where so many famous writers, authors, and photographers have gone before. Foggy night? Raining? Hang out at the bar. Delightful... And, when it's sunny, absolutely breathtaking vistas of the golden hills sweeping down to the sea. Also, more restrooms in the Phoenix gift shop, one level down. http://www.nepenthebigsur.com/
Henry Miller Library
Nice place, clean restrooms; at the south end as you come into Big Sur heading north. Who would've thought it? Miller, renowned for those shocking 'banned in Boston' books, now fondly remembered in this charming small building in the heart of the rugged Big South coast that he loved so deeply.
Ragged Point Inn
Atop a flat bluff high above the ocean, a beautiful place to stay, plus a stunning restaurant with, yes, nice bathrooms just in and around the corner from the maitre-'d stand. Others, not as nice, outside near the gift shop. Take a few minutes to walk the grounds, behind the restaurant to the right where the cliff just drops straight down to the beach far below. If you are going north and need gas, get it here... next place is the totally rip-off station at Gorda, with the nation's highest gas prices... and proud of it.
Hearst Castle Visitor Center
Just off Hwy 1 at san Simeon, the Hearst Castle Visitor center is a great place to stop for a break. A superb state park building with gift shops and restaurant, with restrooms as you enter, just past the information desk to the left.
San Luis Obispo
Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, SLO is a neat older-than-newer small city with a restored, vibrant downtown. The world's first motel -- created in 1925 by Arthur Heineman, along Highwy 101 (El Camino Real, the Franciscan missionaries' King's Highway) the Motel Inn of San Luis Obispo (originally known as the Milestone Mo-Tel) was the first motel in the world. The motel closed in 1991 and is now owned and being used by the Apple Farm (located next door) as an administrative building.
This is a large and somewhat famous place for travelers to stay, with a big restaurant and gift shop... and clean restrooms if you wander down the hallways behind the lobby.
Wildly over-the-top decor... this is one place where extreme HDR photography doesn't even come close to reality. Has a bakery, a coffee shop, a bar, and a full restaurant... plus an assortment of wonderfully tacky restrooms for you to explore. Alex Madonna: "I want people to come in with a smile and leave with a smile. It's fun."
The Cliffs Resort
High on a bluff above Shell Beach; breathtaking views; a nice place, clean restrooms.
The Pismo Beach Hotel
Home away from home for such Hollywood stars as Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford. Since the hotel's beginning, it has been the talk of the town from the high profile days when Clark Gable filmed "Strange Cargo" here in 1937... to the more recent times after its latest restoration.
SANTA BARBARA AREA (back to top)
Just west of Santa Barbara in Goleta, the Bacara Resort seeks to attract the rich and famous with the whole upscale resort thing. But the real story here actually is a building on the beach, to the east of the main resort. You get to it by following a little path from the tennis court parking lot, through the sweet-smelling sage and chaparral, down to the water. The building has excellent beach restrooms, and a sometimes-open hotdog stand. Slightly east of the beach building, up a little rise, is a sign. This is where Japanese submarine I-17 shelled the US coast in 1942, trying to knock out the Ellwood oil field a little further along. The beach is always almost empty, a quiet and lovely place.
The Four Seasons Biltmore
Put yourself in this scene. It's a warm day in October, with the golden late-afternoon sun slanting through the eucalyptus trees near the beach. You are on the terrace restaurant at the Biltmore, with a silver pot of coffee and, perhaps, a freshly-buttered croissant with jam. You are looking out at the sea, with deep blue waves sparkling under the clear, clear sky. Your partner comes back to the table, raving about the restrooms... at the end of a long hallway across from the reception desk. Last time I was there, the spare toilet-paper rolls even had gold foil seals. Nice.
Saks Fifth Avenue
On State Street at Carrillo, Saks offers the best restrooms in downtown Santa Barbara. Just excellent, uncrowded, quiet. Note-- there's good city parking behind Saks, on Figueroa off Chapala... walk from the parking lot right into the store.
San Ysidro Ranch
A tranquil vacation destination for over a century, this five-star hideaway offers a blend of natural beauty, romantic heritage and classic luxury. Myth and history mingle in the lush gardens where Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier exchanged vows; in the setting of John and Jackie Kennedy's honeymoon retreat.
The Pierpont Inn
You'll find California's oldest continually-operating dining room at the heart of the Pierpont Inn, a gracious restaurant with signature olive pâté. Just off San Jon Road (no, not named after me), the Pierpont was designed in 1910 by Sumner P. Hunt, as a Craftsman bungalow style inn to serve early auto travelers. There's also a bar with cafe food next to the restaurant, with Frank Lloyd Wright-style plywood paneling, and a really great sandwich special for lunch. Restrooms, as you come in the front door, are to your right down a short hallway.
LOS ANGELES AREA (back to top)
For the budget traveler -- at Trancas Canyon Road and PCH (Coast Highway) -- coffee in Malibu.
In Malibu, the Cross Creek shopping center has very good public bathrooms, easily accessible from the parking lots (tip from Dan Jansenson, Architect, www.danjansenson.com).
Malibu Beach Inn
Located along the strip of seashore nicknamed “Billionaire’s Beach” -- actually Carbon Beach -- this boutique hotel is a great place to stop for a light meal on the outdoor restaurant terrace.
Now, a slight detour... if you want to leave the coast for a bit and go inland... a classic leisurely drive, perhaps, on Sunset Boulevard...
The Beverly Hills Hotel
Opened in 1912, the hotel has long catered to the rich, powerful and famous who were looking for a secluded haven from the world, most likely why it inspired The Eagle’s hit song, “Hotel California.” Today, the wonderfully restored hotel features the same Olympic-sized pool and famous Polo Lounge, along with picturesque and luxurious touches to suites, with bungalows for extra seclusion.
Sunset Tower Hotel
This 1929 Art Deco hotel was revamped in 2006 and is now an icon in West Hollywood. When the Sunset Tower Hotel originally opened, the building was an apartment complex for industry stars such as Frank Sinatra and John Wayne. The hotel hasn’t forgotten its roots, with numerous sepia-toned photographs lining the walls of the hotel bar and restaurant — all pertaining to the golden age of Hollywood.
If you want Old Hollywood, you can rent a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont. This great castle on the hill is the set of a film waiting for someone to call 'action' - this is the place where things happen - a grandiloquent environment, an infamous hideaway, a great place to go.
...and then back to the coast.
Santa Monica Pier Restroom 5
An annual survey to find the nation's best restrooms has included the public toilets at the Santa Monica Pier among the top 10. Designed to celebrate the pier's 100th anniversary, these restrooms feature unique architecture that includes an undulating roof evoking thoughts of a vintage wooden roller coaster or ocean waves -- inspired by its relation to the water and the whimsical architecture of Southern California's last-standing pleasure pier.
On the beach south of the pier, a luxurious relaxed hotel with several restaurants, close to Main Street, Montana Avenue, and the Third Street Promenade.
Casa del Mar
Across Pico Blvd, this 1926 historic landmark hotel has built a fabled reputation in the last 75 years. The Casa del Mar boasts Art Deco architecture and incredible views of the ocean (it is, after all, the sister property to the famously luxurious Shutters on the Beach). Its location has drawn high-profile visitors since its debut... with a $60 million renovation in 1999.
More Santa Monica...
Santa Monica has bathrooms in all the public parking structures (on Second and Fourth streets). And Santa Monica Place shopping mall, at one end of the Third Street Promenade, has a large number of very fine and well-kept bathrooms, publicly accessible. All of these bathrooms are within two or three blocks of the pier (tip from Dan Jansenson, Architect, www.danjansenson.com).
Marina del Rey
Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey
A particularly nice RC, on one of the world's largest man-made marinas, with suitable restrooms just off the spacious contemporary lobby.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Breathtaking sight: an oceanfront resort surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean with Catalina Island across the channel. A gracious, old-world ambiance permeates the grounds, from the resort lobby and outdoor gardens, to private terraces and inviting courtyards with outdoor fireplaces, and elegant restrooms awaiting you as you stroll the estate.
Queen Mary Hotel
Once the grandest ocean liner in the world, the Queen Mary is now a full-service Long Beach hotel, historical landmark, and entertainment venue. Once the epitome of luxury ocean travel, she raised the bar for customer service and satisfaction... continued today in this first-class destination.
Now. You may be traveling with children, and enduring their endless whining as you explore southern California's best restrooms. But now... finally! You can get them to shut up, with a trip to that 3-aspirin experience, Disneyland. And you must, you know... could any of us truly call ourselves parents without undergoing this experience? The Magic Kingdom is inland, but not too far... take State 22 east from Long Beach to I-5, then go north a few miles.
Disneyland public restrooms
http://suite101.com/article/toilet-testimonial-the-best-and-worst-of-disneylands-commodes-a408394 ... in case Brandon's site goes down, here's the information, slightly edited:
-- Disneyland --
The Worst: There's a tiny shack on the edge of Tom Sawyer Island facing New Orleans Square. It's actually a restroom. With a single stall and sink, under horrible orange light and with almost no ventilation, this restroom takes the cake as worst in all of Disneyland.
The Best: Behind a rocky enclave on the backside of the Matterhorn and next to Alice In Wonderland, sits a semi-hidden restroom that even the Red Queen would gladly call her own. The Red Queen Commode is the antithesis of the usual Disneyland restroom. It has wonderful stone walls with red diamond tiling, stall doors with faces resembling playing cards, and very low-key lighting around the perimeter walls. Best of all, it's the restroom that consistently stays the cleanest.
-- California Adventure --
The Worst: The bottom of the pack, one to consistently avoid. This restroom is found in the A Bug's Land portion of the park, located directly across from a large water fountain that sprays children on hot days. Because this portion of the park is dedicated to children and their interests, this is also their restroom of choice. So unless you don't mind wet floors and kids trying to open your stall door, pass this one up.
The Best: Located in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot next to the Hyperion Theater, this restroom remains a hidden gem. Designed in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright's Storer House of the Hollywood Hills, it's complete with his typical stamped concrete aesthetic. Due to the low traffic in this little corner of the park, this restroom remains quiet, with the relaxing influence of the low-key lighting keeping things peaceful and stress free.
Grand Californian Hotel
An oasis of sorts, in the midst of this ode to a a palm tree rat, a duck, and all the other assorted characters. Great place for lunch, with clean restrooms near the cafe and restaurants.
...and again, back to the coast ... Pacific Coast Highway 1 -- PCH -- right into the heart of Joseph Wambaugh's Golden Orange...
ORANGE COUNTY (back to top)
The Dorymans Oceanfront Inn
One of the 20 best seaside inns in Southern California, says Sunset Magazine. The Inn is one of Newport Beach's most famous landmark hotels. Over the last hundred years, transformed from an old bunkhouse for local fisherman to an 11-room boutique Newport Beach hotel with Victorian flair. Close to Newport Pier.
Balboa Beach Pier, public bathrooms
You can find a public restroom right at the end of the pier, that has a lot of privacy and a showering area if you need to rinse off sand. There is a water fountain there too,
Pelican Hill Resort
Voted "#1 resort in the United States" by Condé Nast. At Crystal Cove State Park, a little bit in from the sea. Great golf. has a superb espresso cafe & bakery, and very nice restrooms. Got some money? Stay in a bungalow. Ooohh!
Montage Laguna Beach
Set on an oceanfront bluff with sweeping panoramas of the Pacific Ocean, this ultra-luxe beach resort commands 30 lushly landscaped acres in the heart of Laguna Beach. Striking Craftsman-style architecture reflects the arts tradition of the area.
St. Regis Monarch Beach
A Forbes 5-star resort. Neo-classical upscale luxury; golf at the beach; and the Crust Cafe for gourmet coffee and tea. Have a drink or light fare in the Lobby Lounge or terrace; very nice restrooms nearby.
Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel was the first luxury beach resort along coastal Orange County. Today, freshened with a new vibe, services and spaces, yet still atop a 150 foot bluff with absolutely stunning views of the Pacific Ocean... beautiful, elegant restrooms... and AAA Five Diamond status for the 27th consecutive year. http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/LagunaNiguel/
Cannons Seafood Grill
High on the cliff above Dana Point harbor on Green Lantern Street, Orange County's 'most romantic restaurant has stunning views, and an outdoor terrace.
Note -- not far away, at the end of Amber Lantern St. past Santa Clara Ave., you'll find the start of the Bluff Top Trail, which is an easy, truly beautiful stroll along the cliff's edge. Stone archways welcome you midway and lead to the dramatic “Hide Drogher” statue -- a sailor tossing hides to ships anchored below... like Richard Henry Dana's Pilgrim, tied up below Cannons restaurant. Absolutely a must-see!
SAN DIEGO COUNTY (back to top)
Jolly Roger restaurant, at the harbor
This is a nice quiet place, for drinks in the upstairs bar, sitting by the windows overlooking the boat-filled harbor. Restrooms on each floor.
Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort
A large timeshare/hotel by the pier, with restrooms down a hall at the back-left of the main lobby room. You can park outside in the white Loading Zone for about 1/2 hour, otherwise it's parking meter time. http://www.wyndhamoceansidepier.com/
Hilton Garden Inn
Going north, just before you get to Carlsbad. Restrooms down a hall, around the left side of the reception desk. Need a swim? Change in the restroom; the pool's just outside. Coast Hwy at Palomar Airport Rd.
From atop a high ridge on the shore of Batiquitos Lagoon, a wildlife sanctuary and a place of natural beauty, the Aviara is a AAA Five Diamond San Diego resort... with elegant restrooms close to the lobby, and near the spa downstairs.
Beach – Jake’s Del Mar
If you have to go at the beach, go at Jake's. Nothing special, but cleaner than the Poseidon or the the Powerhouse restrooms. To the right, just inside the front door
15th St. -- L'Auberge Del Mar
Go in the front door, then turn right past the reception desk. Go down the hallway to the end, then left; both restrooms are right there. These are nice, and less busy than another pair at the south end of the building down a hallway to the left of the main lobby room.
15th St. -- Del Mar Plaza
Il Fornaio restaurant, on the top level, has nice restrooms. Walk straight back past the bar, past the cooks in the open kitchen. At the far end of the restaurant, turn right down the little hall. The Plaza also has public restrooms, which can be ghastly on weekend nights when all the young trendys come in and piss on the floor.
Inland -- The Grand Del Mar Resort
Go into this huge place through the main entrance. The reception desk will be on your right. Past it is a long hallway; turn left down the hallway; sooner or later you'll get to the end and find the restrooms in all their marble and faux-gold splendor. The Grand is what happens when you spend $260 million on a place with Las Vegas decor. Here, nothing is big enough... cavernous gold-wallpapered ballrooms, a massive great room, and a ... library, I guess. Because the shelves are filled with clumps of leather-bound decorator books, all glued together... and, curiously, all in Norwegian. But better than when the place opened, and many were in Russian, including a complete set of Lenin's State and Revolution... which had sadly been purged the last time we went by.
Rancho Santa Fe
The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe
Go in the front door, then up a slight ramp to a hallway with the reception desk on the right, and the restrooms on your left. Designed in 1922 by architect Lillian Rice, the Inn is a nice older place; quiet and calm.
As you enter from the driveway into the garden patio, the restrooms are on the right. A little further on, you'll see the Taplanade restaurant to the left, and a veranda to your right... lovely at sunset, as the sun sets over the hills and the immaculate croquet court just below. Perfect place to go in mid-afternoon for a glass of wine and a dessert in the restaurant.
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
In contrast to the Grand Del Mar, the Lodge is an example of what happens when you combine a large budget with excellent taste. Elegant Craftsman-style architecture. Go in main entrance, turn right after reception desk, walk through bar area, then down hallway with restrooms on your right. On a budget? Skip the restaurant and get a raspberry sorbet in the bar. Or, on the north side of the building near the golf course putting green, there's a much lower-priced cafe, with restrooms in a hallway nearby. Follow this hallway, and you'll pop up at the pool, with a drop-dead lovely jacuzzi, and an outdoor shower with more restrooms at the SE end of the pool. Elevators near these restrooms will take you up to the third floor, where you'll find a real library with a billiards table. Quite a place.
La Valencia Hotel
The large main room, just past the reception desk, is relaxed, elegant, lovely... Spanish architecture, with a gorgeous large window at the far end. Outside to the left, a casual terrace restaurant... just perfect or drinks at sunset on a warm evening. The ladies' room, up a flight of stairs from the right side of the main room just past the lobby, has a beautiful view out over La Jolla Cove... truly a 'loo with a view.' Unfortunately, the men's room, one floor below the lobby, isn't much.
Grande Colonial Hotel
Cleanest restrooms in La Jolla. Sparkling; worth seeking out. Go in front door, walk left past reception desk, turn right down two flights of stairs; men's and women's restrooms at bottom. Excellent!
Timken Museum, Balboa Park
You'll find several restrooms along Balboa Park's Prado, but the best of the bunch are right inside the front door of the free Timken art museum. The world-class Putnam Foundation Collection is on permanent display, with European old master paintings, Russian icons and American art as the primary focus of the collection. Quite a place.
US Grant Hotel
At Horton Plaza on Broadway in downtown San Diego, this classic 1910 hotel is now owned by the Kumeyaay Indian tribe... the very tribe that President Ulysses S. Grant allocated 640 acres of good San Diego County land to, in 1875. What goes around! Restored by the Kumeyaay to its former grandeur, the hotel, with its well-appointed restrooms, is a great place to go.
Hotel Del Coronado
Marble restrooms are just outside the main circular ballroom, down a hall from the reception desk More restrooms downstairs near the bar, too crowded to be relaxed. Best bet? Nice quiet unknown restrooms, on a lower-floor hallway near the spa.
At the San Diego Bay end of Orange Avenue, this French restaurant has good coffee, inedible pastries, and a nice clean bathroom.
Have I missed anything? If you'd like to nominate a particularly nice restroom along the southern California coast, please e-mail me -- Jon Donahue, email@example.com ...thanks!
©2012 Jonathon M. Donahue. All rights reserved.